GAR 100 - 14th Edition

Derains & Gharavi

Derains & Gharavi

Professional notice

Settled two disputes with Kazakhstan and secured an impressive result in the French courts

People in Who's Who Legal4
People in Future Leaders1
Pending cases as counsel20+
Value of pending counsel workUS$9 billion
Current arbitrator appointments68 (33 as chair or sole)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator3

Launched in 2009, this Parisian boutique originally brought together two leading French arbitrators, Yves Derains and the late Serge Lazareff, with two younger partners, Hamid Gharavi (formerly of Salans) and Bertrand Derains, the son of the co-founder.

Though Lazareff left to join another boutique not long afterwards, Derains & Gharavi has gone from strength to strength and has an enviable roster of state and commercial clients.

The partnership expanded in 2011 with the arrival of Dutch lawyer Mélanie van Leeuwen from Loyens & Loeff. The firm has an office in Beirut run by Nada Sader, the first partner to be promoted from its associate ranks.

Yves Derains, Gharavi and van Leeuwen all sit as arbitrators and have been appointed to the ICSID panel of arbitrators. Derains, a former secretary general of the ICC Court, was appointed chairman of the ICC Institute of World Business Law in 2010 and is an ICCA board member.

Gharavi is a thought leader in the arbitration community, having emerged as a trenchant critic of the ICSID annulment system and a commentator on the investment agreement of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (the OIC Treaty).


The practice is principally based in Paris, with Sader in Beirut. For a time, it had an office in DC staffed by Eloïse Obadia, a long-term senior counsel at ICSID, before she left the firm in 2017.

Who uses it?

Albania has been a returning client for investor-state work, with the governments of Qatar, Sudan, Egypt, Romania, Turkey and Togo also lining up to use the firm. It also does arbitration work for the United Nations.

It has represented a French investor in a claim against Moldova and Belgian real estate developers in a claim against Croatia. London-listed mining company Oxus Gold used it for a claim against Uzbekistan.

Other private clients include Airbus, Alcatel, Invista, Thales, Vinci, Veolia and various Greek companies in construction and M&A disputes. The firm also represents several Iranian companies.

A more controversial client has been French businessman Bernard Tapie, who used Derains & Gharavi and Betto Seraglini to defend his arbitration award against a French government entity over the sale of his stake in German sportswear brand Adidas.

Track record

Derains & Gharavi helped Turkey knock out one of the biggest cases in ICSID’s history in 2010: a US$19 billion telecoms expropriation claim filed by Dutch-Jordanian national Saba Fakes. The tribunal dismissed the claim as frivolous at the jurisdictional phase and ordered Fakes to pay Turkey US$1.5 million in costs.

It has secured numerous good results for investors against Kazakhstan. These include defending a US$175 million award in favour of two Turkish telecoms companies against an annulment bid and securing a US$39 million award for oil company Caratube.

It also won a US$25 million ICSID award against Kazakhstan for Turkish investor Aktau Petrol Ticaret, which found the state liable for the actions of court bailiffs. An annulment bid was defeated in 2019.

There have been various successes for Albania, including defeating a €45 million Energy Charter Treaty claim by Greek fuel distributor Mamidoil in 2015 and thwarting a US$18 million claim by investors in the country’s scratch card market in 2013.

In 2011 another client, US radio investor Joseph Lemire, won almost US$9 million in an ICSID claim against Ukraine.

It helped Desert Line Projects win around US$22 million from Oman in 2017 following two Muscat-seated ICC cases over the construction of a ring road and the expansion of the state’s main airports. 

In 2018, Derains & Gharavi won what is thought to be the first ever investment treaty award against South Korea. The client was the Dayyani family, owners of an Iranian consumer electronic group, in a dispute over a terminated deal to purchase the bankrupt Daewoo Group. The family was awarded US$68 million and the award was upheld by the English courts.

Recent events

Derains & Gharavi helped two brothers who alleged their oil and pharmaceutical businesses was subject to a campaign of harassment by the government of Kazakhstan settle two ICSID disputes with the state. One of those cases had resulted in the US$39 million Caratube award mentioned above and was in the annulment phase.  

Another positive result came as a Jordanian-Lebanese telecoms investor discontinued what was the first ever ICSID claim against the firm’s client, Sudan.

In the French courts, it helped the UAE-based Libyan Emirates Oil Refining Company partially set aside an ICC award – giving it another chance to pursue a US$90 million claim against Libya’s National Oil Corporation in arbitration. The claim concerns unauthorised use of a refinery by troops during Libya’s 2011 revolution.

It continues to represent another UAE energy investor in a US$330 million arbitration against Libya under the OIC treaty, while two Turkish construction investors have retained it for a US$160 million treaty claim against the state. 

Investors in a container terminal instructed the firm for a €100 million ICSID claim against Albania. The firm is also acting for a Turkish businessman in a €400 million ICSID claim against Turkmenistan.

Gharavi and his team continue to act for two Iranian banks, Melli and Saderat, in the first known investment treaty claim against Bahrain. The dispute, which is worth about US$500 million, made international headlines following allegations that a bank affiliated to the firm’s clients helped to facilitate sanctions-dodging. 

The leading provider of insurance in Iran has also turned to the firm for an UNCITRAL claim against Bahrain at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

The firm continues to represent the Dayyanis in their dispute with South Korea and helped the family attach shares in a UK subsidiary of South Korea’s national oil and gas company.

On the state side, it is representing Romania in a US$320 million claim brought by a media investor and a US$400 million claim brought over a renewables project. The firm is also defending Egypt in an ICSID claim brought by a Dubai pipe manufacturer.

India has instructed the firm for a Dutch court challenge against a US$1.2 billion award won by Scotland’s Cairn Energy in compensation for a retroactive tax demand.

A French court dismissed client Qatar’s bid to partially set aside a U$37 million ICC award won by a Singapore technology company over a waste facility.

The firm is representing Qatari vehicle distributor Saad Buzwair Automotive Co in an ICC dispute with Audi Volkswagen.

Client comment

Samer Amro, vice president of Dubai conglomerate Al-Ghurair Group, whose companies Derains & Gharavi is representing in several commercial and investment disputes, says “the performance of the team has been outstanding.”

The firm provides a “clear strategy” and perfect execution, says Amro, and the commitment of the “lean and mean” team is “unprecedented.” He reserves particular praise for partners Gharavi and Sader and senior counsel Thomas Bevilacqua. “I cannot recommend this firm enough,” adds Amro.

Airbus vice president Karl Hennessee says the “exceptional sensitivity of the team to what truly matters and the ability to focus efforts on decisive arguments is rare and effective.”

Derains manages the “mighty feat of exceeding his already impressive reputation,” says Hennessee. “He masters both the detail and the big picture at once, and his advocacy is second to none.” 

Derains & Gharavi International is a boutique law firm handling exclusively international arbitrations and arbitration-related litigations. Since its inception in 2008, the firm has consistently been recognised for the high quality of its work, the expertise of its lawyers, and its successful track record in high profile cases. Derains & Gharavi has handled a broad spectrum of investment and commercial arbitrations as well as arbitration-related litigation, including in actions aimed at obtaining injunctive relief, interim measures, annulment and enforcement of arbitral awards, notably before the French and Dutch courts.

Derains & Gharavi’s partners have acted as counsel for States, companies and investors, and served as arbitrator in hundreds of arbitrations, conducted under the rules of all major arbitral institutions, including the ICC, LCIA, DIFC/LCIA, PCA, AAA/ICDR, SCC, CAM, CRCICA, NAI, DIAC, SIAC, Swiss Chambers (SCAI), CAS, ADCCAC and ICSID (including annulments before ad hoc committees), as well as in UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations. The firm’s partners also regularly serve as experts in arbitration law or public international law matters before courts, national and international arbitral tribunals.

Derains & Gharavi’s team brings together specialised expertise and experienced and talented lawyers from numerous jurisdictions, who are internationally recognized as leading professionals. The firm handles cases all over the world and in a variety of different languages (working languages include Arabic, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish). In case particular local law expertise is required, Derains & Gharavi teams up with long-standing local partners around the globe, allowing the firm to select and work only with the best in the business.

Paris Office,
25, rue Balzac
75008 Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 555 100
Fax: +33 (0)1 40 555 105

Beirut Office
Lazaristes Building, Bloc A.2.2, 1st Floor
933 Emir Bachir Street, Downtown
Tel: + 961 1 983 941
Fax: + 961 1 983 945


Email: [email protected]

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